Choose a strategic IT firm
Industry experts agree that outsourced IT support (often called IT managed services) can be broken down into three distinct tiers, each one increasingly providing greater, more forward-looking IT support solutions for your business.
Identifying which tier is the most beneficial to your company will provide you with opportunities for growth and sustainability in a highly competitive and fast-paced market.
The three tiers offered by IT providers: reactive, proactive, and strategic.
Level 1: Reactive Model – This is the most basic service where you call your provider when you have a problem and they come out to fix it. Many businesses still rely on this type of service, especially those that are looking for the lowest cost option. Most IT experts agree this model will be extinct in three years since many tasks performed at this level are becoming so commonplace and easier to self-support. This type of service is generally only effective for very small businesses with 1-5 users with very simple needs and a very basic network. These types of users are not leveraging technology to gain competitive, differentiating value; they simply want it to work.
Level 2: Proactive Model – In this model, your IT provider monitors your entire system, predicts outages and breakdowns, and seeks to mitigate them before they go down and affect your business’ productivity. This includes the remote management of your hard drives and servers, as well as providing monthly system usage reports. In short: this level uses predictive analytics to indicate when things are going to fail before they fail. This level often also includes handling compliance requirements and license management.
One of the major pitfalls of the proactive model is that it only focuses on IT, not your business model or growth plan. Although this is the current state of ‘newer model’ Managed Service Providers (called MSPs for short), it is fast becoming a commodity service and, more importantly, becoming increasingly inadequate. This support model is just that: support. It provides no competitive advantage to your business.
Level 3: Strategic Model – This model delivers all the benefits of the proactive model and adds a strategy layer. It is truly consultative with 360-degree feedback at defined intervals, often called Quarterly Business Reviews (or QBRs for short). This level provides consistent and continuous improvement aimed at helping your company reach its business goals. The QBRs are used as a feedback loop for both sides to adapt quickly and strategically.
Your strategic IT partner will be part of your business’s IT committee, often working with your senior leadership team including your VP of Sales and your CFO – sometimes even joining your Senior Leadership team as an interim member – and often attending quarterly board meetings either as a presenter or a full member.
Strategic support can help you to attract the most skilled workforce and provide them with the right tools to be productive both in the office and remotely – as well as more collaborative with your customer and vendor base. In addition, well running IT is a HR benefit, decreasing staff frustration and securely allowing staff to work from anywhere they are productive. The focus will be equally on day-to-day IT tasks and on using IT to help grow your business and decrease enterprise risk.
Unsure about which tier you currently subscribe to? Ask yourself how often you see your IT firm and what types of discussions you are having. If you are talking about the day-to-day – and never move beyond that – then you are proactive at best.
The bottom line is that hiring a strategic firm will grow your business in numerous ways
A strategic IT partner is increasingly becoming both a differentiator and productivity tool for businesses and is what forward-thinking leaders are expecting now. It’s not about just keeping the IT wheels on; it’s about establishing a partnership to conquer your business’s challenges and recognizing relevant growth opportunities that can be improved or sped up with proper IT.
With a strategic partner, you won’t have to spend as much time managing IT, so you can focus on your business. While this is also partially true with the proactive model, a strategic IT partner asks business questions, gives business advice, provides forward-looking strategies on how your technology platform can help grow your bottom line and improve your working relationships with your entire value network.
Strategic IT is also an HR benefit. When your IT improves collaboration and makes it easier for your people to delight your customers, they will be more likely to engage with IT in a meaningful way, escalating their productivity, their happiness and their loyalty. And it is a differentiator when recruiting.
Hiring a strategic provider to handle your IT needs provides you with a customized, forward-looking approach to helping you use IT to meet your business goals and identifying places where IT might be slowing down your growth curve and/or stifling your ability to sharpen competitive advantage.
Assess your current IT relationship for where it falls on the levels above. Simply put, if you’re looking for growth, you should also be looking to move up to the strategic tier with your IT partner.